Category Archives: Environmentalism

Why you should say Yes to more Eco-friendly Fashion

Imagine yourself walking into a clothing store. Your eyes settle on a beautiful t-shirt and you decide to buy it. Do you think further than how it looks or how much it costs? Most consumers don’t, and many clothing companies and designers have figured that out.

The world is suffering from global warming, due to climate change produced by human activities, according to Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). We as consumers need to take action in order to protect the future generations and to reduce the world’s greenhouse gas and CO2-emissions. If not, the results will be more droughts, tropical storms, floods and ricing sea levels as a result of extreme weather changes. Some say it1s too late, and that the world is experiencing the big climate changes already, while others still believes that we have to take action so that the global warming won’t get any worse for the future generations.

Fossil fuels – the main problem
The main human activity that is causing the global warming is burning fossil fuels. According to Planetsave.com, nearly everything that is produced today, and nearly every product you buy, involve use of fossil fuels. Also when exporting and importing products, it used a lot of fuel and electricity that leaves CO2-emiossions footprints in the sky. It is a known fact that the consumer behavior has an impact on the environment. People often choose unconsciously. The majority of the items you buy were chosen after nothing more than a fleeting moment of awareness (oh, that’s a nice shirt!). The problem is that many people are not conscious about the environment-issues that are happening. Many designers are conscious about the climate changes and want their consumers to be more conscious too. They design eco-friendly fashion, which is a part of the growing awareness and trend of sustainability, where the goal is to create a system, which can be supported indefinitely in terms of environmentalism and social responsibility.

Sustainable fashion
Sustainable fashion means you’ve been given the information of where the clothing comes from, who makes it and what it’s processed with to ensure the item is worthy of the eco-friendly message it’s sporting. According to Aljazeera.com, surveys conducted by the Global Poverty Project and by universities throughout the Western world — in places such as France, Wales and California — all point to increasing consumer awareness to negative social and environmental effects on fashion industry. Leading brands are starting to respond. Many fashion industry labels employ “green” and “ethical” marketing to target “conscious” consumers. For example H&M’s Conscious collection, made of organic cotton and recycled polyester. They have started this awareness and produce eco-friendly clothing, as well as the ethical aspects of the environment. Their goal for the campaign H&M Conscious is to make fashion sustainable and sustainability fashionable. With their clothing produced mainly in development countries, they only work with suppliers that have signed their code of conduct, which is a clarification of their requirements for environmental and social fairness. Also other companies have eco-friendly and ethical collections such as Adidas’ Design for Environment gear; Zara’s eco-efficient stores; and the Gap’s P.A.C.E. program, to benefit the lives of female garment workers.

High-fashion designers are also introducing eco-friendly designer-clothes through the environmentally friendly materials and socially responsible methods of production. For example Stella McCartney who swears to sustainability and eco-friendly products where it is used natural and raw materials such as organic cotton and recycled materials. She writes on her homepage: “Fashion frequently has an environmental cost that doesn’t show up on the price tag.” To be more aware of your consumer behavior and conscious about how your living can impact on the environment, you can contribute on reducing the greenhouse gasses, which equals a better world to live in.

Not there yet
Even though the awareness is present among the consumers and the fashion world, there is still a long way to go to get a total satisfaction. The big companies do have eco-friendly collections, but still they do produce massive copies of not-eco-friendly clothing to consumers that is not conscious about the environment. The solution is to keep building on the awareness through collections, fashion designers and celebrities, but also among consumers themselves.

By Milan Botani

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How influential are the Greens?

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IN A NUMBER of European countries the Greens are an increasingly influential political movement. They have been part of power-sharing agreements to form governments and have been involved in legislating at both the national and supra-national levels.

However, despite these electoral successes the Green movement in Europe, and beyond for that matter, seems to be caught in a state of limbo – more influential than grass-roots and protest groups, but never a realistic electoral prospect for acting as more than a minor party in national power-sharing agreements.

The popularity of Green politicians is often overlooked. It’s hard to think of a more genuinely popular politician in the UK than Caroline Lucas, who of course managed to win a seat in the UK Parliament – a remarkable achievement for such a small party in a First Past the Post system of voting.

However, while Ms Lucas has been able to maintain her presence throughout her time in Parliament, even appearing in court after being arrested at an anti-fracking demonstration, the party is unlikely to stamp its authority on the General Election in 2015, although polls do suggest increasing support for the Greens.

In Europe the Greens are more influential. As Hannah Odenthal of the European Green Party points out in her interview with Lisanne Oldekamp, the Greens are becoming more influential in countries such as Spain as well as Germany and France. Therefore, the appetite for voting Green is there among European voters.

However, despite this support, the Greens still form one of the smaller groups within the European Parliament, and the expected increase in support for anti-EU parties might mean that it becomes even less significant. This seems to defy logic at a time when Europe is largely beginning to accept that it needs to reduce its reliance on fossil fuels and fuel imports – most notably as a result of the ongoing crisis in Ukraine. In addition to this the Greens are often portrayed as being a diverse group recognising all European interests.

This may be the problem for the Greens.

While they can rely on a certain amount of support, in effect they often are perceived as campaigning on a single issue platform – namely the environment. However, this is less and less the case. The Greens/EFA group in the European Parliament also represents a number of progressive-nationalist movements, most notably in the form of Scotland and Catalonia.

If the Greens want to press forward in Europe they need to address this image and sell themselves better to voters. They are a genuine alternative to the political establishment and while it can be argued some of their cause has been stolen by increasingly environmentally conscious mainstream parties, they should appeal to a wider population than they currently do.

One way of achieving this could be to attract an ever-growing disenfranchised young electorate – especially if they stand in stark contrast to the growing anti-EU rhetoric and political parties who look likely to drastically increase their vote in upcoming elections.

The real tragedy of these European Parliamentary elections is that the debate about Europe has changed from discussing and debating the benefits of Europe to the inadequacies of the European Union. The Greens have an opportunity that is afforded them by their outsider status and pose a genuine alternative.

Someone’s got to do it.

Words: Greg Bianchi

Photo: European Green Party

It’s not easy being green

 

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AS ANTI-EUROPE parties try to convince the Dutch that they are better off alone and they should abandon the sinking ship that is the Euro, the country’s Green party GreenLeft is trying to do the exact opposite: portraying the EU as an inadmissible part of daily life not only today, but for generations to come. On national television, the GreenLeft Member of Parliament Jesse Klaver used examples from a nineties children show around an acrobat and a clown to stress the importance of the EU. Less visible, but with similar ambitions for The Netherlands and Europe, Hannah Odenthal (26) is taking to the streets convincing the Dutch not just to vote, but to vote for the Greens. In an interview with Pandeia, she explains why and how she’s spreading this message.

“To answer your question of why I do what I do, I believe that all of us are Europe, as we enjoy its benefits every day. Europe stands for peace, progress, and renewal. Europe means freedom: we can live, travel, study, and vote, anywhere in the European Union. However, not everyone can benefit from the possibilities given by Europe to millions of people every day. Therefore, we have to work together to create a Europe in which no one gets left behind.”

Green Party 1What is your role/function in the Green Party’s campaign?

“I am indirectly involved in the campaign, as my job is to support the Secretary General of the European Green Party. In addition to supporting her work and making sure she is in the right place at the right time to speak to political actors and stake holders, my work varies from day to day. For example, last weekend our team travelled to Berlin for the kick-off of the ‘hot phase’ of the Common Green European campaign, where I was asked to do voice-overs for videos to introduce our speakers. While this is not usually part of my role, it reflects the variety of tasks that makes the job and the entire campaign exciting.”

Past elections have not resulted in high turnouts. How do you ‘sell’ Europe in general and the Green Party in particular to the voters? What is the Green Party’s strategy?

“Despite the best intentions in creating a European-level political sphere, in the European elections, people vote on a national level and not on a European level. They vote for national parties, often from a national perspective. As the European Green Party only operates at a European level, the broad part of actual campaigning falls to the 33 Green parties across the EU. We have advocated for European-wide lists to move towards true European politics, and we have had common campaigns since 2004. We always make sure that there are transnational elements such as common visuals, that are part of our European campaigns.

“Part of showing voters what we stand for, is our common manifesto, which is drafted and adopted by EGP member parties from within the European Union. Our manifesto is a signal of their cooperation and unity, and it is a basis for pushing forward our common Green agenda on the European level. Our manifestos of the past ten years can be found here:

http://europeangreens.eu/content/egp-manifesto.”
What is the Green Party’s position in the European Parliament?

“The European Green Party does not have a position in the European Parliament itself. We are represented in the parliament by the Greens/European Free Alliance, of which the Greens are a part. With 58 members from both Green parties, independents and regionalist parties, Greens/EFA is the fourth largest political group in the European Parliament. We are a strong, cohesive group that have been very successful in pushing environmental issues, digital rights, food and fishing, LGBT rights, fair economic policies, the rights of migrants, and many other issues, to the front of the EU’s agenda.”

Green Party 3 The Green parties across Europe play very different roles in national politics. Can you elaborate on these  different backgrounds, and on how these are united into one mutual, pan-European party?

“The Greens are a diverse family across the EU. While each party shares strong green values (such as environmentalism,  democracy, and a commitment to social justice and fairness). However, across Europe each Green party is different, depending on  many different factors such as resources, the national context, the size of their membership, how developed the Green movement  in their areas are. In Germany and France for instance, there are strong, well known Green movements where their respective  parties are important actors on the political sphere. In Spain, the youngest Green party has a different background and impact and  is focused on both pushing their political agenda and building recognition across the country. Because of national politics, some  parties have a more cautious approach to Europe, while some are very eager advocates for closer EU ties. Some member states  have Green parties that work very effectively in an environmental-grassroots lobbying model. In other countries, the Greens are  in government and have a clear impact on national legislation. There is no set rule.”

What are the Green party’s plans for the future?

“Over the next five years, we have an ambitious agenda to show that Europe must and can do better.

With rising unemployment (especially for young people), huge strains on public finances, food scandals undermining consumer confidence, a dead-end energy policy that ignores the urgent issue of climate change, and democracy and rights under attack in some EU countries, Europe needs a change of direction.

“The multiple crises facing Europe – economic, social, environmental, democratic – require action in all European policy fields. In a globalised world, the challenges transcend borders; so do the solutions. Isolation and nationalism cannot be the answer, neither can old policies and austerity measures.

“The Greens are working towards a comprehensive transformation for Europe, that allows everyone to live a good life based on economic, social and environmental sustainability. We want to deliver millions of green jobs, ambitious climate protection, health and social justice. The Europe we want is a Europe of solidarity and well-being; a Europe that acts for equal opportunities and fundamental rights; a transparent Europe that people can trust; a Europe that promotes cultural diversity and gives hope to youth; a truly democratic Europe in which citizens have a say.”

Words: Lisanne Oldekamp

Pictures courtesy of European Green Party

Oil Hungry: Spanish Government Plan Controversial Drill in Canaries

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The global energy company Repsol has finally obtained permission to begin drilling for oil next May near the Canary Islands, amidst protests and failed attempts to halt the project. Victoria Medina assesses the Canary Islands government’s referendum request to ask citizens whether they approve or reject the initiative.  

There has been nothing but controversy since the Spanish Conservative Party led by Mariano Rajoy announced it would be allowing Repsol to explore the seabed in hopes of finding oil, less than 70 kilometers from the coasts off the Canary Islands. Politicians and experts have warned of the devastating effects oil spill could have on the Islands economy and how it would also be harmful to the rich wildlife that inhabits the area.

Plans to extract oil were first announced in 2001 when then president, José María Aznar, also  Conservative, put forward a motion to claim the valuable fuel that allegedly lies underground between the Islands and the African continent. Repsol was to be the sole beneficiary and the only company that would have the right to drill for oil, but the Canary government was quick in appealing to the Supreme Court and achieved a suspension due to the inexistence of an environmental impact report.

More than a decade later and still without the pertinent report the Minister of Industry, Energy and Tourism, José Manuel Soria, born and raised in Gran Canaria, reopened the case and set the final date. Years of dispute will end in less than three months when the work finally begins without a general consensus.

Referendum proposal
The Canary Islands has the highest rate of unemployment in Spain, 33% versus the nations average of 26% that equates to a total of more than 4.800.000 people. Furthermore, the seven Islands are one of the most attractive holiday destinations in Europe and depend enormously on the tourism industry to sustain their unsteady economy. According to the Canarian Institute of Statistics (ISTAC) in 2013 more than 12 million tourists visited, one million more than the previous year.

The regions president, Paulino Rivero, recently argued during an interview on the public news channel ’24 Horas’ that he had followed proper procedure when presenting the Spanish president Mariano Rajoy with his plans to summon a referendum. He also defended his actions against claims issued by Soria stating it was illegal to request such a referendum.

On the same news channel and during the same program aired on the 12th of February, ex TV presenter Cristina García Ramos shed light on the existing dilemma between oil and tourism. She said it would be significant to control such an energy resource but “at what cost” would it come if it meant serious environmental issues and conflict.

According to the Spanish Constitution, article 92.1, “political decisions of special importance may be referred to a consultative referendum of all citizens”. However, it is still unclear whether the Canarian population will have a say about the matter.

The population is divided, as there are still those who believe oil drilling could generate thousands of jobs for the unemployed. Repsol claimed in 2012 that it would create 5.000 jobs, but experts say that these would only be for the extremely qualified and would not help significantly reduce the local unemployment statistics.

A national issue
The Balearic Islands have also been dragged into the spotlight regarding the same issue since the government decided to search for oil near their coasts using seismic tests. This has been met with protests that it could affect the fishing industry and eventually result in an environmental hazard if any oil were to spill into the ocean. Both national authorities and oil companies say that this rejection is based on a “profound lack of understanding” and that there is no risk involved.

The Spanish government long ago set out to reduce its oil dependency that currently generates the importation of 1.4 million barrels of oil a day to satisfy the high demand of the product. Furthermore, Soria has stated this week before the Senate that if the Canarian Islands proved to be rich in oil it would mean a 10% reduction of all imports from other countries. Environmentalists, however argue that there are far more valuable energy sources that are not being exploited to their maximum potential, such as solar energy and wind power amongst the many renewable and clean resources that the islands have to offer.

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Why our role in climate change is a violation of our human rights

It may be unthinkable, but heavy pollution is a violation of human rights argues an Australian scientist in the Netherlands. As Lotte Kamphuis explores, current generations are therefore being called upon to take rigorous action against climate change.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that every human being is entitled to the protection of his or her basic human rights, independently of where and when he or she was born. Take for instance, the right for food and shelter however, owing to climate change these are at stake. If we do not take decisive action on this matter, basic human rights of future generations are being violated. It is this premise that the Australian scientist Peter Lawrence argues in his new thesis at Tilburg University, according to Dutch student newspaper Universe.

It is therefore alarming that environmental crime such as the dumping of and illegal trade in hazardous waste; is the most profitable and fastest growing area of international criminal activity, writes Universe in another article. In 2010 trading company Trafigura was convicted of illegally exporting the toxic waste to Africa and fined one million euros. Illegal wildlife trade in endangered species by smugglers is also seen as environmental crime. That’s before we even get onto the more widespread littering that occurs every day across the globe. It is the lack of cross-border legislation and the logistical problems any such action would cause that means governments struggle to take firm action against these illegal acts to harm the environment. In addition, environmental criminals often take advantage of situations where government and consequently law enforcement are at their weakest.

Needless to say, environmental crime isn’t going away and if we want to protect the basic human rights of the next generation, it needs to be tackled. In addition, new ideas, theories, methods and findings are necessary in research and applied areas related to the environmental law enforcement. In Folia, a Triodos Bank chairman put forward the idea that banks should focus more on sustainable development, for instance by investing in wind farms. This is just one of the many initiatives that have arisen as a consequence of the United Nations work on the matter. Yet, it is up to international community to agree on the combination of legal principles in achieving an effective global treaty on climate change and environmental development. This is essential to ensure that agreements are respected and protected for this generation and the future.